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Marja & Henk recently reported on Bruno Putzeys' new Ncore platform. It's the most current expression of his class D thinking and thus also the latest generation Hypex module. At the time the story had it that DIY would have access to one version of Ncore, OEM to another. This led to much speculation about which established brands might later this year offer Ncore-based amplifiers.
The launch of Mola-Mola now adds a third player to this mix - Bruno's new venture with old Hypex partner Jan-Peter van Amerongen. Under this name they'll introduce for the HighEnd Munich 2012 a preamplifier with switchable RCA/XLR inputs and option bays for phono and digital; and a pair of 1.200-watt NCore monos. The photo at left shows Bruno's not-for-sale Ncore demonstrator amp available to OEMs as a short-term decision maker loan. The photo at right shows Theta's forthcoming $12.000/pr Ncore-based mono amplifier. The photo below introduces Mola-Mola.
Thinking folks will wonder whether with it, Bruno and Jan-Peter won't become their own OEM's worst nightmare.
Unless Mola-Mola's pricing adopts current inflationary high-end trends—Bruno's well-documented distaste for a lot of our conventions makes this unlikely—this launch might have just pulled out the rug from under OEMs hoping for a high-performance turn-key solution which packaged in overweight oversized enclosures could be sold for a stiff tariff. Unlike ICEpower, the Hypex-based OEMs I'm aware of tended to congregate on the value rather than luxury end of the pond. When news of Ncore first hit, a shift seemed on the wind. How will setting loose the big fish of Mola-Mola affect this scenario?
Common sense predicts that the designer of Ncore who is widely acknowledged as one of the most advanced engineers working in the class D sector would know how to wring the most performance from his own circuit with his own brand. How many prospective customers will that leave to believe that some gold-plated OEM variant would be sonically superior to warrant a likely very stiff surcharge?
If in Munich Bruno & Jan-Peter make superlative sound and their pricing remains value-focused—the compact size of the monos suggests high reason not moolah-moolah treason—we might be one step closer to seeing class D acknowledged as a true performance option. And perhaps a few steps further away from making inroads into the snobbish end of the sector where bling factor and exclusionary pricing are big motivators.
PS: The Munich show launch explained neatly just how Mola Mola intends to avoid competing with its own OEMs. They showed a €6.500 tag for the preamp and a €10.000 sticker for the mono pair. The latter's 1.200-watt rating—somewhat counter to consumer audio conventions—is into 2 ohms for a still very potent but now more conceivable 400 watts into our regular 8-ohm format. Mystery solved if perhaps not quite the answer many were hoping for on final pricing.